I've been watching the Ebola outbreak in West Africa with increasing dismay as it has failed to burn out like previous epidemics of the deadly disease. It is also taking its toll on the incredibly brave health workers who are treating the afflicted. At least 100 have been infected with half of those dying, including one of the top doctors in Liberia who passed away Saturday. Now two Americans working there have also been sickened.
Geography usually works against Ebola. Most human contact with the virus occurs in more isolated villages where contact with infected fruit bats or other animals is more likely. This outbreak has been persistent enough that Ebola has made its way larger cities such as Monrovia and Freetown. In one very alarming incident, a Liberian man flew to Lagos while ill with the disease and later died. 59 people who came in contact with the man, Patrick Sawyer, are being monitored, but there's also this disconcerting note to the story:
However, the airline on which he arrived in Lagos had not yet released the names of passengers.
Hopefully that has been rectified and the other passengers are being tracked down so they can be monitored. Hopefully.
Another bit of information that got my attention is that Sawyer's wife and children live in the Twin Cities area and he was due to fly back here once his business in Lagos was concluded. Ebola has an incubation period of 2 to 21 days before an infected person begins to show symptoms and becomes infectious. I don't know where Sawyer was in that range, but it appears we've gotten to the point, or quite close to it, where it's possible that there are people leaving West Africa or other way stations in Africa who are infected but asymptomatic.
The World Health Organization is still saying that there is no need to restrict travel or trade to and from Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone. I'm not so sure about that, but they are the experts. I'm concerned about it getting to the US, but my greatest fear is that it will get loose in a densely packed city such as Lagos, home to 21 million people.
This is the worst Ebola outbreak in history now, and it shows no sign of slowing down yet. I don't think we need to be worried in the US at this point, but millions of people in Africa could become at risk in the next few weeks.